We chat with Rabbi Ozer Moszkowski ahead of him taking up a new position at Etz Chaim Synagogue.
Ozer and Leah Moszkowski started their married life in Israel with Ozer attending the Jerusalem Kollel: “My wife Leah and I were both born in South Africa and then moved to Manchester. Our families knew each other but Leah and I didn’t know each other personally growing up. We were introduced through a mutual friend when I was studying in Israel. We got engaged and were married and settled back in Manchester. I went back to Israel and was studying in Yeshiva and joined a Rabbinical programme, the Jerusalem Kollel, for three years. Once I got my ordination, our first joint placement was in Eugene, Oregon in the USA. That was outreach on campus at the University of Oregon, and also there was NCSY work, which involved high schools. Leah did more of that. At the end of our time there we were approached by Aish to take up a position here in Leeds at the university.”
The Leeds position was ideal for Ozer, who has a family connection to the city: “My mother is a Leeds girl. My great-grandparents came to Leeds in the early 1890s and as a young boy I would visit every Sunday to see my great-grandparents, grandma, and grandfather Harvey Cohen. He and his brother Alec were big supporters of the community. They were members of BHH and actually donated the lectern which sits there now.”
Leah is also glad to be working in Leeds: “For me, it was love at first sight. As soon as I got to experience Leeds and the beautiful Jewish community, I knew I had found something special. I am beyond thrilled to be able to now call this place home, and the people, my new family. I am itching to get started in my new role, meeting the wonderful young adults and young families, and putting on innovative, engaging programming for them.”
As is evident from their work in various universities, engaging with the younger generation of Jews is something that is very important to both Ozer and Leah: “My wife and I very much see ourselves as a team, and we’ve made it clear that you get both of us. We’re each as passionate as each other and we’re both extremely passionate about helping youngsters get in touch with their Judaism. Young people, especially at university, are at a time in their life where they’ve first moved away from home, and are exploring so many new philosophical, social, and theological ideas. We want them to be able to grow in their Jewish knowledge and Jewish connection in the same way that they will academically.”
In the new position at Etz Chaim, they will be focused on a slightly older demographic, namely young adults and young families: “We’re there for the whole community, of course, but our main focus is going to be to engage with the young people in the community. What we want to do is showcase Judaism in an extremely positive way, and in ways and places where young adults and young families want to be. It’s about breaking down as many barriers as possible because not everyone nowadays feels comfortable inside the synagogue. What we want to do is abide by tradition but bring it outside the synagogue to the places where these young families already are.”
Leah and Ozer will be taking up their new positions at the end of August.